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Little Steps, Chelsea

Impression: Freer Gallery of Art
Freer Gallery of Art
Number: 269
Date: 1886
Medium: etching
Size: 51 x 86 mm
Signed: butterfly at right
Inscribed: no
Set/Publication: no
No. of States: 2
Known impressions: 5
Catalogues: K.262; M.258; W.213
Impressions taken from this plate  (5)


Two states are known.

State 1

Etching: K2620109
Signed with a butterfly at the right edge, just above centre.
The composition is complete.
The shading above the window consists of a single horizontal line crossed by short parallel lines.

State 2

Etching: K2620202
The cartouche behind the butterfly is shaded; panels are completed on the shutter to the left of the passageway, and diagonal shading is added above it; shading is added to right of the lamp above the passageway, as well as within the shadowed passage; shading is added at the top of the shutter to the right, above it, and on the window panes at right; short diagonal and vertical lines are added to the shading above the window.

State 2 (cancelled)

Etching: PS_K262_01
Cancelled with widely-spaced crossed diagonal lines.

No impression from the cancelled plate is known. This is a digital image based on the copper plate. 10

10: A scan of the copper plate was flipped horizontally, converted to greyscale, and colour inverted, with enhanced contrast.

Etching: PK262_01
The copper plate bears the maker's oval stamp: 'HUGHES & KIMBER (LIMITED) / MANUFACTURERS / LONDON E.C.' It is close in size to several etchings, in particular to two slightly later etchings, View from the chateau walls, Loches 420 and Trixie (Mrs Beatrice Whistler) 470, dating from 1888.
The plate was cancelled with crossed diagonal lines, probably in 1891. Whistler discussed with Edward Guthrie Kennedy (1849-1932) the possibility of printing one or two impressions from cancelled plates so that prospective buyers could see that no further prints were possible. Whistler's 'secretary' William Bell wrote when Kennedy visited London in June 1891: 'in accordance with his intentions expressed to you the other day, Mr Whistler has already destroyed a great number of the plates in question, and herewith sends you the proofs as an interesting fact of reference - ' 11

11: W. Bell to E.G. Kennedy, 8 June 1891, GUW #09674.

Others cancelled at this time, and in the same way, include Gates, City, London 280, The Dray Horse 292, Petticoat Lane 299, Salvation Army, Sandwich 319, The Ramparts, Sandwich 324, The Tow-Path 325 and Little Nude Figure 330.
It was in Whistler's studio at his death and was given to the University of Glasgow by Rosalind Birnie Philip (1873-1958) in 1935. The plate was cancelled with crossed diagonal lines.